Milana summits a peak with the help of Mountain Seed Foundation instructors.


Max Lowe documents a girl and her grandmother at the therapeutic Mountain Seed Foundation in Camp Courage.

25 October 20234 min read

Max Lowe has long been drawn to stories of healing and the everyday act of living with trauma. With Torn (2021), the filmmaker explored losing his mountain-climbing father at a young age. Adventure Not War (2017) follows three veterans who embark on a ski trip through Iraq to mend war wounds. In his latest documentary short, Camp Courage, the director turns his lens to Olga and her granddaughter Milana, made refugees by the war in Ukraine, as they head to the Mountain Seed Foundation, a transformative summer camp in the Austrian Alps. 

Lowe was first introduced to the Mountain Seed Foundation, which seeks to provide support and healing to families impacted by European war zones, when they invited him to screen Torn. After learning more about the therapeutic work the program was doing, the filmmaker was introduced to Milana and Olga, and their connection was instant. “Even though we were speaking through a translator, sitting on a video call, it was just so apparent that [their] story was so close to my own heart in many ways,” recalls Lowe. “With their permission, we decided to tell the story together.”

Milana wears a pink ensemble at the top of a mountain.


When 10-year-old Milana was a toddler, she lost her mother when she was killed during the onset of the initial invasion of Crimea. Now living with her grandmother Olga in a place that is not their home, Milana is growing up and coming of age in the shadow of conflict.

Filmed over 10 outdoor-therapy-filled days, Lowe captures Milana’s journey as she encounters adventure, conquers her fears, and enjoys the magic of being a kid. “These kids have all had their childhoods taken away from them in one way or another. We weren’t just a film crew that was parachuting into their lives; we were going through this experience with them,” he says. Camp Courage is an emotional and joyous portrait of quiet bravery and resilience, and the curative, unbreakable bonds that come from community and shared experience.